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Kevin Bleyer Education. (2012) Kevin Bleyer ('Me the People One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States of America').

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America 9, Washington 5, Thomas Jefferson 4, United States 4, Kevin 3, Philadelphia 3, Scalia 3, New York 3, Roberts 2, Antonin Scalia 2, Allison 2, U.s. 2, Etc. 2, United States Postal 2, Vietnam 2, Clarence Thomas 2, Johnson 2, George Shultz 2, Nation 1, Patriots 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Kevin Bleyer  Education.  (2012) Kevin Bleyer ('Me the  
   People One Man's Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of...  

    September 8, 2012
    8:00 - 9:00am EDT  

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u.n.. have to be careful not to -- that we would not even be useful as an alibi. >> for -- more with un secretary general kofi annan on after word that can:00 p.m. and sunday at 9:00 p.m. and midnight eastern on booktv. .. >> good to see so many new faces in the audience. kevin, we're here to talk about
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your book. i taught maybe the way to start off was to show everyone your book trailer, why it is you actually wrote the book in the first place. >> all right. >> do we have the trailer? >> who wrote the constitution of the united states? would you, please, recite the constitution? [laughter] have you ever read the constitution if. >> no. >> what's your favorite part? >> i like the bit around the edge. [laughter] i like that. the sort of, like the old pirate map kind of coffee-stained looking bit. >> who wrote the constitution? >> george madison. >> that's not a person. >> washington? >> that is a person, but that's incorrect. >> george jefferson? [laughter] correct, final answer. do i win? >> have you realize the constitution? >> no, but i did see the movie. [laughter] great. >> there is no movie.
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>> spoiler alert. sorry. >> that's why i rewrote the constitution. [laughter] good night, everybody, thank you very much. [applause] that explains it all. that is just the tip of the iceberg. in my research for this book or, as i like to call it inevitably, my mesearch, forgive me -- [laughter] yes, more american teenagers can name the three stooges than the three branches of government, pretty shocking. almost three-quarters of americans believe of the people, by the people, for the people is in the constitution rather than being of the gettysburg, and for crying out loud, didn't we learn that? most e tbreej juice to me was many americans, almost half, believe from each according to his needs was written by james madison rather than karl marx
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who, by the way for the teenagers in the audience, is not one of the three stooges. add to that, you can keep going. i don't mean to commandeer right off the bat, but this goes to the top, as today say. you may remember a few years ago no less than congressman john boehner held up his copy of the pocket constitution and said i stand hereing the second sentence of the declaration of independence. i cast no aspersions, i begrudge no one because my blind spots were as broad as anyone. you probably could have convinced me years back that if you asked me how the constitution began, i would have said it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. [laughter] and to some degree, it was. by the way, i just want to say thank you for being here, thank
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you for having me here. it's good to see so many friendly faces out here. in fact, if it's possible for someone to be humbled, i am humbled, and i would also say if any friendly faces are slightly less friendly today because you had to pay to see me talk, i would -- i understand, and i guess i would just merely encourage you not to think of it as a $5 service charge or fee or penalty, but think of it as a tax, yes. [laughter] the front row is way ahead of me on that one. [inaudible conversations] the front row is way ahead of me. thank you for that. i'll count on you later, just so you know. indeed. >> so what did you learn? what surprised you the most? >> well, beyond the ignorance of the constitution, which is unfortunate, i do get asked the question, okay, what prompted this project? why did you rewrite the constitution? it would be, perhaps, too
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convenient but not altogether incorrect for me to say what other people have said which is, well, everyone else is rewriting the constitution, so why not me? no fair. so for everyone who's ever said there ought to be a law, i get to say, hey, there's a whole new law. beyond that, it bears repeating i had no choice but to rewrite the constitution. because no less than thomas jefferson told me i had to. he told me i had to. um, he said, as you may know, that every constitution naturally expires at the end of 19 years. because in his math 19 years was a generation. so by his math our constitution, i guess, has been naturally expired for over two centuries, dead, kaput, an exparrot you might say as they do, and i'm just feeling bad. i've been slacking for two centuries, and i owe you all an
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apology. beyond that, some things have happened in the past few months that i feel like actually gave me, um, put a stamp on my work and said, hey, you did the right thing. to some degree i felt the constitution needed some publicity. even though people cite it for the good ways and reasons we do, and unfortunately sometimes use it as a political battle, as a weapon in a political battle, it also felt like it needed some publicity. i was reassured by that recently as we saw justice ginsburg was in egypt and said if she were redesigning a democracy this day and age, she wouldn't necessarily use the american constitution as a model. i was kind of surprised to see that since she's, of course, known for protecting every clause of it. but the truth of the matter is she was just saying something that's already been happening. 25 years ago 94% of american constitutions had used the constitution at least in part to base their constitutions on.
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unfortunately, the last 25 years, um, seems like none of them have. that's certainly a study that came out in the nyu law review suggested. they look instead to things like south africa and to -- and this is especially galling people -- canada, right? [laughter] because in their estimation those constitutions do more service to things like human rights as they say it and something called the -- i want to make sure i'm getting this right -- >> environment. environment. [laughter] yes. so that's why they look to it. yeah. >> this has been a theme of some of the interviews you've given about the book, we're talking about why it needs to be rewritten. you compared yourself to the chief justice. would you care to explain that? >> i compared myself to the chief justice? >> about why it needed to be rewritten. >> i don't recall exactly what i said about the chief justice. i do recall going into the --
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>> you said to the chief this week in your open letter -- >> oh, yes. forgive me. if he can rewrite a penalty into a tax, then certainly i as an honest citizen can do no less than rewrite the constitution of the united states. >> it was breaking news on constitution daily. >> absolutely. we broke that news. >> you mentioned your interview with and scalia. tell me about your time with him. he's a character. >> a character, that's certainly true. fascinating gentleman. now, obviously, i wanted to meet with justice and a can lee ya because -- scalia because i thought really who on the face of the planet, let alone in the country, would be most amenable to a page 1 rewrite of the constitution. [laughter] and it would be a man who's devoted an entire career to protecting every clause, sentence, punctuation and thumbprint on it, as we know. to my surprise, to my amazement, to my, you know, great glee he
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agreed to meet with me. um, we met at the national gallery and had a rollicking lunch. [laughter] we did, in fact, yes. the satirist versus the jurist, so to speak. and like you said, incredibly charismatic fellow, as i think people know. we talked of many things constitutional. but i knew at some point i had to go to his bread and butter, i had to address the judiciary and propose my suggested changes to the, to the supreme court. and as you might imagine, as soon as i said the word, well, let's talk about lifetime tenure -- he picked up a fork, poked it at me and said, don't you dare change lifetime tenure, and if you do, at least grandfather me in because i love my job. [laughter] lifetime tenure i learned is actually not in the constitution. um, the third article merely says justices shall serve during
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good baer. now, for a bunch of very good reasons we've always presumed that meant for life because they were reacting to kings in england who would often willy-nilly remove judges from the bench. actually, i can read a section, if i may, about that particular meeting. >> please do. >> that i think might be, um, re la story about how that went, as you can imagine. by the way, this is my bookmark. you'll have to forgive me. [laughter] it's an ostrich feather. so i've explained to you the difference between the actual language and how we've interpreted it. i don't bother lecturing justice scalia on any of this. after decades of legal study and 25 years of service a as one of american's top judges, he's been fully breed. instead, i begin my cross-examination. how about you, i ask. how about me what, he counters. can you imagine just walking
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away, i ask. of course i can, he somewhat scoffs, with a tone that implies he'd just as soon leave today if only he hadn't signed a two-year leems on his -- lease on his supreme court locker. when, i ask. like i said before, when i'm not doing the job as well as i used to, it'll be time to go. how will you know when that is, i ask. he looks me straight in the eye, i'll know. so you don't need some outside authority limiting the -- >> i'm fairly aware of the requirements of the position, he says. i'll know when i can no longer fulfill them. and yet, what if i told you, your honor, that someone says you're wrong about that? someone even more powerful than you? and who is that? someone you know quite well. he looks at me wondering if he should ask. who? if this were a case in some courtroom drama, this is the moment when i would stand slowly, scan the jury, look back
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at the judge and call my surprise witness. dramatic pause, the current chief justice of the supreme court of the united states. if this were, indeed, a courtroom drama, the stenographer would record the reaction of the gallery, and chief justice john g. roberts jr. would salter up the aisle -- saunter up the aisle hesitating only long enough to feel scalia's glare. roberts would then explain to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury, justice antonin scalia should have been kicked off the court ten years ago. when he was a lawyer in the reagan white house 22 years before he joined the supremes, john roberts argued on behalf of a 15-year term limit for supreme court justices. as he saw it, the founders, quote: adopted life tenure at a time when people simply did not live as long as they do now, unquote. a judge insulated from the normal currents of life for 25
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or 30 years was a rarity then but is becoming common place today. setting a term of, say, 15 years would insure that federal judges would not lose all touch with, quote, reality through decades of ivory tower existence. it is an indictment of lifetime tenure too compelling to ignore. as i finish explaining, one thing is clear: scalia knew nothing of this. have i outlawyered the longest-serving justice of the supreme court? [laughter] really, he thought that? yes, i say, pausing a beat for dramatic effect. yea, he did. for a moment scalia seems speechless. he can muster no defense, even though we're sitting in the national gallery eating lunch, i attempted to shout, the prosecution rests. march out triumphantly. but i don't. i stay. and scalia's grin returns. well, he says, i doubt he does
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anymore. [laughter] he has a good point. roberts doesn't think that anymore. when roberts himself was asked about his previous comment in his confirmation hearings in 2005, he flip-flopped. predictably, his opinion had devolved. on the issue of lifetime tenure, larry sabato says where one stands depends on where one sits. are you going to make me retire with your new constitution? i mean, i've been here longer than saw 15 years. oh, he's not on the attack, he's throwing himself on the mercy of my court. no, sir. i'm not here to fire justice scalia, though i appreciate his acknowledgment of my authority to do so. so what exactly do you propose? i thought he'd never ask. simple, i say. your new article iii, the judicial power of the united states shall be interested in one -- shall be vested in one supreme court, and the justices
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shall hold their offices during good behavior. scalia seems confused. that's what article iii always says. not exactly, i said, i dropped the u from behavior to make it more american. but otherwise, that's article iii. indeed it is, your honor. justice scalia could not help support, we revie the original -- revive the original language. i had him dead to rights. surely a man who swore by the letter of the law would swear by the letter of this law, that is, save one letter, to which he owed his spire career. i was proud of my judicial jiu-jitsu. but who determines good behavior, he asked? good behavior, i correct himment [laughter] thank you. he was pronouncing the u, you see. [laughter] that's what i said, he says, who gets to decide? i've anticipated in this question, scalia listens closely
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as i compose a body appointed by the president to determine whether the justices are passing the good behavior test. he gets what i'm saming at. a supreme supreme court, he says with a laugh. i can them he's not ruling it out. just one question, he says. i raise my chin and allow it. yes, your honor? how long do they serve? [laughter] i hadn't thought of that. [laughter] now, what's great about justice scalia, other than he was agreeable and game to kind of play with me because he, obviously, i think, knew -- i presume he was understanding the true intent of my book which is to bring people's attention back to the source code of the constitution and take a look at it, read the thing -- >> it's a gateway drug to the constitution. >> there we go. thank you very much, allison. but this is, i think, evident in that situation which i realize was long, but he's got a great sense of humor. i knew this. i had been told that he did.
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what i didn't know is that he is officially the funniest supreme court justice. how do i know that? many years back, seven, eight, "the new york times" actually reported on this, they had released a batch of transcripts, and someone thought to look into it and count the number of times laughter was annotated by the stenographer, and by a long shot he engendered the most laughter in the chambers. in fact, pretty hilariously, he was twice as funny as breyer -- [laughter] 19 times funnier than justice ginsburg. [laughter] oh, yeah. now, we don't know about clarence thomas -- [laughter] because, as you know, clarence thomas hasn't spoken much, if at all, in fact, not at all, so it is possible mathematically speaking that he is infinitely funny, that he is always funny no matter what he says. [laughter] he could conceivably be the patch adams of the supreme court.
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[laughter] i just got a razz right there, thanks very much. i felt it, i heard it. >> but justice -- in your book, let's talk further about the book. justice scalia goes on to say that this court is already rewriting the constitution. did he already render your book obsolete? >> oh, he probably did. pretty hilariously, there's a guy named rexford tugwell who has a great name i couldn't possibly make up. he has rewritten the constitution because famously, and we can talk about this in the second amendment, he actually did the work of rewriting the actual amendment to say what he thought it meant using the language and flipping it around. but we can get into that. but, and he's not alone in doing that either. but there is another rewrite to the constitution. he did, essentially, the serious version of my book. he was another colorful character, member of fdr's brain
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trust, and then had the delusions of grandeur that i've had here in this book as well, but he wanted to be taken seriously with them and spent the last three decades of his life writing something like 72 drafts of a new constitution intending for it to be rat tide and embraced -- ratified and embraced by a nation. i don't think it worked, i'm not sure. but he is, he's one of the people that have done this before me. so the court in scalia's eyes have rewritten the constitution a number of times over because as we know, scalia would prefer that not to be the case. in fact, he said the same thing about the constitution as thomas jefferson did. he has said, in his words, it is dead. the difference between him and thomas jefferson is he means dead as a compliment. he means a door for what we know it meant at the time we wrote it, you know, which is a valid, valid argument to make, it is one-half of the argument against living constitutionalism as well. >> well, you are here at the national constitution center, and we are interested. you know, next year's our tenth
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anniversary, we're talking about projects and figuring out if we could change it, if we could rewrite it, what would we do? many you've got some opinions on this. >> i do, i do, in fact. um, now, what i hope i've done with the book, and i hope this is where it's interesting as well as amusing, i try to actually get to the nub of the issue for each of the articles in the amendments. try to point out what the debate has been where people think it has fallen short or it lives up to what we want it to be. um, and so the first, let's say, 80% of each of these chapters i do actually, as they say, dig deep and try to find out what those issues are. now, granted, the last 20% is where my solutions come into play. most of them are probably indefensible, but they are debatable, and that's the point, i think. some of them are even funny. let's take congress can. >> okay. >> one thing we know about congress is, first of all, we
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don't really approve of it. t got an -- it's got an approval rating somewhere around bedbugs. [laughter] famously, i believe it was tom coburn, when the approval rating was at a recent high of 14%, even tom coburn said something like who are these 14% of the people who trust us? [laughter] i don't know who they are. i'm told, i'm not sure if this is true, i'm told lindsey graham will occasionally not admit he's a congressman if people don't recognize him at first, which is kind of hilarious. we know we don't approve of them, and we also know we sometimes can't name our congressmen, so i make the solution -- it is warm in here, isn't it? you're right. if we know that, if we know that we want to approve our congressmen, one solution is we all become congressmen at birth. we're all a special interest, and that is be a solution. interestingly enough even though i came up with that rather absurd solution, and i explain why there are virtues to it,
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again, within the research here and independence hall i learned that george washington himself spoke only a few times during the constitutional convention. one of the times he spoke was right near the end, and it was the only time he really weighed in on the matter of policy, and he said i think we should change the number of representatives we have, the ray cho of representation -- ratio of representation. and i thought, well, if he's going to tinker, i'll tipger all the way and make it one to one. [laughter] yeah, right. as far as the executive branch, what do we know about the executive branch these days? we revere george washington because he was presumed to be what i think we all want truly in someone who leads us at the presidential level which is something of a reluctant savior. somebody who's answering a calling, somebody who is stepping up and coming to our rescue, so to speak. we kind of presume that new of them -- that few of them have that sensibility. we also know that in this day and age we want someone who's an
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average joe, don't we? be we often suggest we want a president, apparently, who we can have a beer with or go to a barbecue with. so i suggested, well, the only way we know the president would be truly reluctant and truly average would be to pick him or her randomly only from the subset of people who actually did not show an interest in the job. i don't want the job, all right, i'll do it. now interestingly, i look at that, and i think that's kind of absurd. all right, fair. but then i also see only a few weeks ago you have, say, mitt romney who went out into the world, and he was in vegas, i think it was the day he was meeting with donald trump, and he said, you know, a businessman sidled up to me and proposed something, and i think it's a pretty good idea. let's consider it for a moment. he said, you know what? we have certain requirements, eligibility requirements for the presidency these days. certainly age, nation, birth, citizenship. but this businessman said to me,
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you know what we should do? we should add a provision to the constitution -- which i think he means the amendment, that's usually how we change the constitution -- we should add an amendment to the constitution that all presidents should have been required to have at least three years of business experience. and i actually looked at that and thought, that's actually kind of crazy, but it's kind of genius because mitt romney's starting to reduce the number of people el eligible to be president until it only describes him. [laughter] unfortunately, it would also make ineligible many great presidents we've had, roosevelt, eisenhower, etc. he also said pretty amusingly about the executive that he might forgo a salary, did you read this? work on more of an incentive basis, or at least he would consider it. [laughter] yeah. as we the first time would have a president on commission, right? pretty wild. but on the other hand, that might work too. that could have been in my book. perhaps that should have been in my book because if he balances
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the budget, raises the debt ceiling, lowers the deficit, maybe he deserves a billion dollars because in the grand scheme of things, et ain't that -- it ain't that much, i suppose. >> do want to talk about the book. there is a particular section many of you have e-mailed us about, particularly about your visit to the national constitution center. >> sure. >> and i want to make sure i get this correct. >> uh-oh. >> you call the national constitution center the opposite of disney land. >> uh-oh. >> we have no carnival games, no roving mascots. i've been in the mascot costume, we do have -- >> yeah, i learned that recently. >> it's part of the hazing -- >> here's what i'm saying. yes, why not have, why not go all the way? >> i'm not done. >> oh. >> no log flume car and no lines. there is, however, a gift shop. i believe you call our award-winning production of freedom rising a favorite among be of you a cross between a planetarium, a laser light extravaganza and experimental
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one-man show of our town. what's up with this? >> keep reading on, i say how inspired i was, and it got into my skin even in that short presentation when the we the people is broadcast in kind of a -- it glances past your face, i felt like it was right -- you have to realize the book to get the full understanding, but i'm so inspired by that, that's when i stood up and decided i was going to find the constitution. did i not? >> you did. >> very inspirational. >> i was saying you have opportunities here. you could have a first amendment roller coaster, a second amendment shooting gallery. actually, you probably wouldn't want that. [laughter] there's opportunities we can all exploit, certainly. >> um, you -- you did go searching for the constitution, that's what we're about, we're about getting people active and civically engaged. but you do mention as the nation's museum of the constitution, we fall a little bit short.
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what else should we be doing differently here? >> i did? that's all i said. >> shall i read again? what else? what else would you like to see -- >> on a day like this, and actually it's something i would suggest to congress as well, it seems to me that the only way we can, um, get anything done is if there's kind of a ticking clock here. you know, i make the suggestion that only a few blocks from here these men got together, and they wrote a constitution over four months in the sweltering philadelphia heat. they had powdered wigs on, they shuddered the windows, they locked the doors for privacy. they, for that matter, there were butchers throwing animal carcasses out in the street, so it was very pungent inside and outside, as you can imagine. there was a prison riot, they were drinking beer for breakfast, true story. granted, many colonists at the time drank beer for breakfast, but nonetheless, they were drinking beer for breakfast.
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some of them drank so much beer that they gave up six-hour, winded speeches that i'm sure they thought were charming, and they still got a constitution written. it was kind of crazy. so much so that even at the end of the summer while they -- well, they did two things. they established a committee of the whole and a committee of silent arrangement. the committee of the whole basically suggested that at any time -- i'm getting around to your question. >> i know. >> the committee of the whole said anytime they wanted to revive an idea, they could do it. so in other words, it was the committee of don't hold me to this. somebody would say, well, i want to go back and revisit this. so for four months in that sweltering summer, they still managed to do it despite the fact that they had so much against them. now i say to the world, you know, perhaps the solution here is for congress to stay in session in d.c. and turn off the ac. all summer as well. so what i was going to suggest, if you want to give people a
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true experience, maybe have one room, one room that is truly just open, everyone puts on the wigs, and they have to sit there for five hours like a sauna. that could be an interesting idea as well. give you a specific idea -- >> you make a good point though. >> and then they have to sit across from each other and debate to find out who was going to win. >> you do make a good point, 225 years ago civility was a very different concept than it is now. you point out that government's a little bit dysfunctional now. >> indeed, it is. and hopefully, some of my solutions might, you know, well, solve all the problems. you're right. >> so what's the cause? why is this? and how do we get the right people running for public office? >> well, unfortunately, i've waylaid that already and said we're going to be congressmen, so we're all going to be in office for that matter. but i can answer a broad question about -- because i kind of think i left one question unanswered to you earlier when you asked why am i writing this constitution, why not point out, why not just point out, forgive
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me, that the constitution we have is great? and i agree. it is. it's something to be entirely revered. and i actually want to read two quick sections, if i may, that might actually suggest that and also answer your question about, you know, how can we get the right people running for office. i open the book with, i think, a fairly quick explanation for why i decided to write this book, and i lost my bookmark because it was my quill, so one moment. there we go. and i felt compelled to read this since considering where we are. their beloved bell was in jeopardy. it had hung dutifully for decades peeling hourly from its steeple above the pennsylvania statehouse, breaking the peace of the philadelphia streets only to remind citizens that all was well. but these were no longer peaceful times. it was 1777, a year after
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america had declared independence from the british crown and only days after her lion-hearted general, george washington, had suffered a withering defeat at the battle of brandywine. all signs were that philadelphia, the revolutionary capital, might well be the next to fall. fearing the king's men would melt any metal they found, a few american patriots confiscated their own bell soon to be known appropriately as the liberty bell and hid it in the safest place they could find: under a pile of horse manure. [laughter] the gambit worked. the marauding redcoats never got their british hands on our american liberty. the lesson learned back then rings as clear today: sometimes in order to save and honor something we cherish, we have to [bleep] on it, and i think you know where i was going with bleep. [laughter] unfortunately, the c-span cameras would be upset with me. but, now, to cut to the chase and suggest to the world, well, what i actually feel about the
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constitution, i think there's one other thing i could read for you. um, the book end as well. their beloved stamp was in jeopardy. it had been designed carefully and artfully, graced not only with the stately visage of an adored and adoring national icon, but also with the denomination chosen to reflect just how long it would last. nay, how long it should last. forever, a forever stamp. [laughter] it was 2011, 125 years after the statue peeture had been -- feature had been dedicated from the france as a moral to honor -- [inaudible] three billion stamps had been printed by the patriots at the united states postal service. two billion had already been issued and sent far across the country and globe to enlighten the world one envelope at a
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time. alas, forever wouldn't last forever. one person with way too much time on his hands made a shocking discovery. the lady on the stamp wasn't the neoclassical figure standing sentry on new york harbor. no, she was a pint-sized knockoff overlooking not new york, new york, but the new york new york casino. [laughter] true story. she hadn't welcomed the huddled masses, she welcomed gamblers iraq to sidle up to the all you can eat $3.99 buffet. a replica, lady luck. in other words, and we've got three billion of these? a small, discolored rectangle that mars her crown's most prominent spike. it was the telltale giveway.
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someone somewhere had said, yeah, that seems about right. it must be her, and if it's not, i doubt anyone will notice. the united states postal service released an official statement but not of apology, of adoration. quote: we still love the stamp design and would have selected the photograph anyway. [laughter] they admitted no defeat, made no excuses, announced no recall. they also, it must be said, made me proud to be an american where at least i know i'm free to pretend i totally meant to do that. [laughter] even when i totally screwed up. after all, what was the postal service to do? should it deny it made a mistake? as, yes, original author james madison might have wished in that summer of 1787, and as perhaps antonin scalia would probably still, perhaps, advise today. should it recall the stamp and continue living in the past? that was the unfortunate choice jonathan dayton made in his later years when he, the youngest delegate at the constitutional convention, stayed so fixated on his
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participation that he never once updated even his manner of dress. a walking example of arrested development. or should it make a bold, wholesale makeover in a staggering, miraculous infrastructure oi ri of -- flurry of admiration? even if it should, it didn't. instead of promising a more perfect stamp, the postal service insisted the stamp was a more perfect stamp, one that despite the injuries brought on by a sloppy postal researcher still secures the blessings of the liberty as we know it, life size and in full. it interpreted the advice of thomas jefferson, that we not look at stamps or anything really with sanctimonious reverence. and of james madison, too, that we not suffer, quote: blind veneration for an tig bity. they interpreted it as something slightly different, that we should just get over ousts, stick with the -- get over
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ourselves and stick with the program. sometimes in order to honor an icon that defines us as a nation whether it be a giant green woman holding a torch or the constitution of the united states of america, we should roll with what we've got, because it's damn awesome. that's how it ends. [laughter] i don't want to spoil the ending for you, but the butler didn't do it here. he might be an accomplice, and it certainly makes a debatable debate, but i, of course, come out after one rewritten preamble, seven rewritten articles thinking that we have something we should revere for all the good reasons that we do. >> one of the chief accomplices at the con veps was james madison, but you seem to have a repeated beef with james madison. >> we had a visit with him -- >> we did. >> i'd love for you to explain to our audience your beef with james madison and how you made nice with him today. >> well, i don't have to stand up to point out that he and i
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have a lot in common. he was a short man, as i often say in this book and elsewhere. i see only so far as i do because i stand on the shoulders of short men. james madison, of course, is the egoto my id. i consider him my ego, governor morse is more of -- morris is more of my id. yes, i comically compare myself to him. he showed up 11 days before the delegation because he thought he wanted to outsmart everybody. i totally understand that. i was at, you know, an a+student for too many years in my career. he was a stiff, gloomy creature. joseph ellis called him self-consciously inconspicuous. you wouldn't notice him in a room. he almost always wore black. which i found kind of interesting, i didn't know that about him. so i make the comic joke that, you know, don't we want -- shouldn't we presume that our,
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the father of our constitution is, you know, a man of steely gaze and what have you? if he's not going to be, twoan the two of us, we could wear a trench coat and perhaps join forces. >> i do want to make sure we leave time for audience questions, so those of you who want to, please, queue up at the microphone over here. kevin, i think a lot of folks are also really interested in your experience with the daily show. >> ah. >> both with the book and with your writing from the show, this comes from -- it is fun, but it also comes from a praise of deep intellect. you've done a lot of research -- >> mesearch, allison. >> forgive me. what are you most focused on right now for current events? walk us through what a day is like in the life of the daily show. >> oh, happily. we were anticipating, as even was, the supreme court decision, so that was man that from heaven. we were happy that, of course, it landed on the thursday before we were about to take a break.
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usually these things land on a saturday or sunday, but we managed to get our teeth into it, which we really enjoyed. you know, the day is not, it's not wizardry, it's what you might expect. it is a bunch of people with their radar up looking for interesting material, trying to do something interesting about it, hopefully saying something insightful through the avenue of saying something funny. we get into the office anywhere between, say, 7:30 and 9:00 depending on what you're doing. the first meeting is raucous, fun, quick-paced, what have you. it is screening a bunch of footage, it is getting angry at a bunch of footage, and we think we can turn that anger into some kind of amusement for our own health, that's what we think -- what might be the, what might be the first segment. and then throughout the day we're just kind of constantly rewriting and making sure that we're still eyes on the prize. three or four times we'll get together with jon, and he'll give -- you know, he is the vision for the show.
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he's the editor-in-chief, so, um, and then by 4:30 we have a script. yeah. >> you mentioned that justice scalia is the funniest. who's the funniest writer? >> o e, no, no, no, it's not a competition the. it's all collaborative, i promise you. but you're right, you were suggesting there's part and parcel from this to what we do on the daily show. and i think so. i was hopefully making some fun of the headlines in 1787. to some degree i was surprised how much they fed off each other, working on the books and nights and weekends, the cell phone plan, and also working with the daily show during the dale, it would be kind of amusing that, yes, every time you'd show up at the show, someone somewhere would say something ridiculous about the constitution. and, actually, it's funny you mentioned, we were mentioning the aca in the supreme court decision last week, speaking of something that was said that i found rather amusing. if i were still working on the book, i would have found a way to put it in. the 5-4 decision, rand paul
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actually said to people, he said, um, just because people say things constitutional doesn't make it constitutional. of course, he was talking about the supreme court, he was actually revising, rewriting numbers at that point because a couple people, apparently it's five in his mind, but beyond that, they weren't just a couple people, they were the supreme court. those people saying something is constitutional is how we've decided things are constitutional. but, for example, that kind of quote, i would see that happen, we'd make fun of it on the show or not, but i would be able to go home and kind of investigate, all right, what do we need to know about judicial review and all those things and find some way to cherry pick the best anecdotes. >> have you become the go-to history buff? >> anyone can do anything. obviously, people have strengths, but i was squirreled away doing this almost privately
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before, before the book came out. so i don't think people knew i was working on it. >> just a reminder, there's a stationary microphone down here. i wanted to talk to you about the news cycle in the daily show you were just referring to. >> sure. >> does it trouble you that more people now say they get their news from the daily show than mainstream news? does that concern you? [laughter] >> you're right. every four years the pew foundation says more people get their news from fake news than from any other source. and when i hear that, i find that, actually, quite inspiring and utterly horrifying, yes. [laughter] it seems to me we want a broad breadth, we want a full buffet as our news digest goes, but i guess, look, we try to get it right. we try to get the news part of it right. so i do think we're adding value as far as that goes. but ultimately, i think we have to trust that people know when we then are going into the punchline. and if they didn't read the news elsewhere, they hadn't actually seen the news somewhere else,
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they might be confused by that, but i don't think our audience gets confused by that. i think they say that because maybe they want to voice support for us, and i certainly appreciate that, but i actually presume they have a broader brush somewhere else. >> you hope. >> i hope. i presume, i need to know. i need to think it, yeah. >> what do you -- in this election season, what's the richest material for you? what do you have the most fun with? >> it won't surprise you that when there are 20 debates with 15 republicans, that was quite an amusing time, no doubt about it. [laughter] you know, as far as going forward, i mean, i think it's interesting to see how much money's being spent on the campaigns. but you know what? you can't really predict what's going to happen on any of this. truly, you show up on any given day, you work with what it gives you, not with what you think is going to happen who months from now, and, you know, that becomes our show. so as much as we like to say in august, well, we'll be doing
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this, it's impossible to work that way. >> as margaret mentioned at the top, we've got a number of things going on with this election system, so i want today put you on the spot. >> oh, no. >> for those of you that have seen the web site, we recently launched address america. address america is your six-word stump speech. so many of you have lines like read my lips: no new taxes. we've actually launched a new project this year during the election season to ask all of you what you want to hear of or from your politicians. so can we have the address america video? and then on the flipside we're going to ask you for your six-word stump speech. >> sure thing, sure thing. ♪ >> stump speeches are speeches which candidates use over and over while they're rubbing for political -- running for political office. the stump speech dates back to the 1800s when candidates stood on actual tree stumps to deliver their message to a crowd. candidates have used the stump speech to keep their message
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focused and consistent. now, we're asking you to take to the stump and boil your speech down to just six words. in six words, people say a lot stwr. we the people run the government. >> a new president equals new jobs. >> less money to support violent actions. >> i think breast-feeding could change america. >> let's bring our old values back. >> let's take care of our homeless! >> help prevent all poverty and bullying! >> freedom comes with a great responsibility. >> russia thinks american freedom is beautiful. >> tolerance, freedom can and liberty, inalienable currency, independency. >> change the economy, equal rights now! >> let's be the united states again. >> we are too divided on everything. >> everybody needs to be freedom today. >> common decency, lives are at stake. >> more protection equals more free life. >> let's get rid of the litter. >> politicians should go far, far away. [laughter]
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>> health benefits should be less expensive. >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> performing arts and sustainable energy. >> everyday americans could be heroes too. >> independent, democratic -- [inaudible] >> america needs a broader world perspective. >> get out and see your country. >> so that's, that's address america. we're going to be taking this to the republican and democratic national conventions this summer. so you had two minutes now to think about it. what's your six-word stump speech, and you realize i'm asking an author of a several hundred page book to narrow it down to six words. >> can i have two? >> of course. >> thank you. well, i think the first one, i'm pretty happy with this one. um, in the words of patrick henry, give me liberty or give me -- see? [laughter] give me liberty. that's all he's asking. but, no, i would say this is a fair one, i think, considering
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the day. six, of course, you can count. ready? honor the constitution, read the constitution. how about that? >> fantastic. we truly mean it when we say we're going to quote you on that. thank you. [applause] >> so, kevin, what's your next project? any other crucial american documents that need to be rewritten by kevin bleyer? >> as has been prescribed to me, i'll be writing the sequel in 19 years, but i imagine in the nearer future i will probably need to rewrite the federalist pape ors. [laughter] because in the same way they wrote the federalist pape ors to try to convince people to ratify their constitution, i, too, probably have some explaining to do at this point. so maybe that'll be the next document. or maybe 50 shades of grey. jon stewart called my book 50 shades of red, white and blue. >> is there a product line to go with it? let's take a question from over here. can we have your name, please? >> kathleen.
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>> hi there. >> so you are a self-described overachiever and, obviously, have a lot of passion, and you've done research, so why comedy, not politics? >> why comedy, not politics? because i enjoy it, and i don't know that i would enjoy being a politician. i don't know that i'd be a good politician. perhaps because of some of the comedy that i've already written. [laughter] who knows? it truly just comes down to i enjoy having this kind of, you know, perverse angle on life. i enjoy actually taking something and turning it into comedy. that seems to be what has been my bread and butter and, certainly, has filled my sails, to mix a metaphor. >> thank you. >> thank you. well, kevin, i want to say thank you and thank you to all of you who have come to join us here tonight. i'd like to give you the official leather-bound, gilded copy of the constitution, you've passed the test. >> thank you so much. i appreciate that. >> thank you, kevin, for joining us at the national constitution
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center. happy independence day. >> thank you. [applause] >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at booktv at booktv@cspan.org or tweet us at twitter.com/booktv. >> host: and booktv is on location in las vegas at the annual freedom fest conference, and we are interviewing several different authors here, and we're pleased to be joined now by the vice presidential nominee for the libertarian party for vice president of the united states, judge james gray, who is also an author. and his book is called "why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it." judge gray, if we could, though, start with your background. tell us your background. tell us about yourself. >> guest: well, sure. i was in ucla, go, bruins, that
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sort of thing. and then i was in the peace corps, two years in costa rica. i will be the first peace corps volunteer ever to be elected to national office, and that's kind of pleasing. i went to usc law school, was being drafted and then was a navy jag attorney for four years. >> host: during vietnam? >> guest: it was during vietnam. that's why i was being drafted, actually. within a week of getting back from the peace corps, i received my notice for physical, so guess what my future had in store for me? after i got out of the navy, i was a federal prosecutor in los angeles, u.s. attorney's office, prosecuted the standard cases, bank robberies, drug cases, doesn't really think about it much. ended up heading a unit prosecuting frauds against the government, fha, va, that sort of thing. after that was in the private practice of law, business litigation for five years and then was appointed to the bench, so i was on the bench for 25 years as a judge, and now i've
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retired and i'm running, as you say, for office. well, what court were you a judge at? >> guest: the superior court in orange county, california. it's the state court and over 25 years pretty much did everything. and as a part of that, you know, churning, low-level drug offenders through the system for no good purpose and eventually, in fact, it didn't take too long, i saw what we're doing simply isn't working. the tougher we get on drug crime, the softer we get with regard to prosecution of everything else. so robbers, rapers, byrderers were getting a lot less accountability because we're spending all these efforts on the prosecution of nonviolent drug offenses. it just doesn't work. >> host: so what was your attitude toward drug lawbreakers, i guess? >> guest: well, you know, you have to uphold the laws, and i raised my hand to protect and defend the constitution as well as the state laws. that doesn't mean i have to do it privately or quietly. so i would do that, but, and you can't escape drug cases.
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you're in juvenile court, drug cans involved. you're in probate, you can't escape them. but nevertheless, i was able -- i kind of see myself as a bearded outside agitator in disguise because what we're doing here isn't working, and we simply have to put our heads together and change it. we couldn't do it worse if we tried. ask mexico, for example. 60,000 people died a violent death in the last five or six years because of president calderon's war on drugs, and it has nothing to do with drugs, it has everything to do with drug money, and it's our drug money that's causing those drugs and corruption and lack of respect for the law. >> was there any particular drug case that kind of crystallized your thinking? >> guest: there kind of was, although fs building up. -- it was building up. i was carrying out another judge's sentence, and we had a really bad guy who was charged with and pleading to going out with prostitutes, beating them up, raping them and stealing their money. and by the time all the dust
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settled, he'd only serve another two weeks in jail before he would be releaseed, and when he was taken back to lockup, he gave out a war whoop as if he'd won. and i can remember thinking to myself, you know, he has won because we're so involved with using our resources for drug cases that really bad guys are escaping. i realized the tougher you get on nonviolent drug offenses, literally the softer you get with prosecution to everything else. i'm going to do something about it, and i have. >> host: what have you done? >> guest: well, i talk about this publicly, as publicly as i can. i've been on "the o'reilly factor" a couple of times and john stossel's special, i've written a book about it that, actually, was on booktv about ten years ago when it came out in 2001. now it's updated at the beginning of this year, 2012, so i'm back on booktv talking about this issue, among others. >> host: and here's the cover of the second edition. specifically, what are one or two things about the u.s. drug
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laws or state drug laws that you would change immediately? >> guest: well, the answer is hold people accountable for what they do, not what they put into their bodies. the criminal justice system is very able to, for example f i drive a motor vehicle unfortunate the influence, that's a crime and should be. why? well, because now by my actions i'm putting your safety at risk. but as far as putting people in jail for what they choose to put into their bodies, number one, it doesn't look. and i'm a libertarian, too, and i'm proud of that. most people are. government has as much right to roll -- control what you and i put into our bodies as much as what we put into our minds. it doesn't work, and you are so contributing to problems. 90% of our so-called drug problems are drug prohibition problems. that's not to minimize the drug harms themselves, but the huge amount are drug prohibition problems just like when we had alcohol prohibition.
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the quality control went away when we repealed alcohol prohibition. al capone was no longer involved in selling drugs. today you do not find children selling drugs, excuse me, selling alcohol to each other on their high school campuses, but they're selling marijuana, ecstasy all the time. >> host: okay. arguments against it include children shouldn't be taking ecstasy or -- >> guest: sure, i agree with. >> host: or teens. >> guest: i agree with that. >> host: heroin addiction, marijuana use the same as alcohol. >> guest: sure. >> host: should marijuana be treated the same as alcohol? >> guest: yes. and, in fact, there is an initiative in colorado that governor johnson and i and our campaign have endorsed, same thing in washington. thank you for this other -- >> host: we'll show that as well. >> guest: but, sure. you know, again, the drugs are here to stay. so i agree that children should not be doing this, but ask our
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children today what is easier for you to get, marijuana or alcohol? ask the first ten children, teenagers you find, they'll all tell you it's easier for me to get marijuana. why? because the illegal dealers don't ask for id. so today, think about it. the biggest oxymoron of our lives today is the term "controlled substances." why? because as soon as you prohibit something, you give up all of your control with regard to place of sale or quantity or quality or price, age restrictions, all of that is abandoned to the bad guys, to the thugs, to the mexican drug cartels. most juvenile gangs in our country have their biggest source of revenue from what? sale of illegal drugs. let's cripple drug cartels, let's cripple juvenile gangs by repealing drug prohibition. regulate marijuana like wine is the place to start. >> host: judge gray, would you have marijuana, etc., sold in retail stores? >> guest: treat it like wine, yes. just treat it like wine, and that's the answer for most
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questions. could you grow your own? well, you can grow your own grapes and make your own wine. treat it that way for responsible adults, yes, and tax it. wouldn't it be better to have these huge amounts of money go actually to pay our firefighters and our teachers, fix our roads instead of funding juvenile gangs and mexican drug cartels? it's a really easy question to answer. >>st two of the people you dedicate this book to are george shultz and the late will item f. buckley. >> guest: that's right. and, in fact, you can go on to say this was endorsed by milton friedman who's a hero of mine, also, of course, walter cronkite who was a real hero in a lot of other ways and george shultz, like you say, the former secretary of state for ronald reagan, no man's liberal. you get those folks together agreeing on anything, it's pretty impressive. >> host: you also have another book out, and this is a new one. >> guest: yes, sir. >> host: what is this one? >> guest: it's a voter's hand luke, solutions to america's
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problems, and there really are resolutions to these problems. honestly, i wrote this without having any intention or thought of being involved in another political campaign, but it talks about health care, education, the failed policy of capital punishment which regardless of your philosophy isn't working, getting into responsible criminal justice issues and rehabilitation, that sort of thing. i even recommend we go on the metric system which is certainly something else, and you said i'm running for vice president with governor gary johnson. it's amazing because he, from a totally different perspective, has come out to pretty much the same analysis that i have on all of these really important issues like education. you know, today the tie you're wearing -- and i like it, by the way -- you chose how much to spend, where to go, what to buy. like all other consumer goods, that's how we get reasonable goods for reasonable prices, but education is completely different than that. education is funded from the top up, so the federal government spends all this money, keeps a bunch of it, then gives it to
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the states who keep a bunch of it for their a administrative costs, then give it to the school districts who do the same, give it to the schools, then it finally gets to the teacher. well, it isn't working. today our schools are failing our children. so if you allow it to be funded from the bottom up just like your tie or your shoes or anything else, that gives the parents the ability to decide where and how their children should be educated, and they will then be able to take their child to the school that best meets that child's needs, and that will result in what? it will result in excellence. it'll result in innovation because if your school doesn't work, they'll take their children to someone else's school. what will you do? you'll either say, my goodness, why are these people leaving my school? i'd better do something to keep them here, or you'll go out of business, and someone else will come in and do it. competition works such that governor johnson and i both say that we will bring back excellence to our schools within four years of installing this program. we mean it